Back to School Again – The Guilt-Free Guide

Just when we think we can finally see the light at the end of a school year, the thought of fall rears its ugly head. We are home schooling mothers; therefore, we must do all things perfectly. We must have the right curriculum next year; we must have it planned out, for each day, ten months in advance; and we must make sure our children’s heads are crammed full of exactly what they need at the end of it.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda. These words cannot be found in any dictionary, for good reason. We must cast aside our visions of perfection—in doing so we will be able to quit struggling with our perceived failures. Rather than tell you what you should be doing to make next year perfect, what follows is a list of questions to help you figure out how to make next year good enough.

1. Find the right curriculum

  • What are my children’s strengths and weaknesses? Do they need another year of geometry/spelling/reading comprehension? Did the last book help them learn?
  • Are their learning styles visual/verbal, tactile/kinesthetic, visual/nonverbal or auditory/verbal? For which subjects do I need new books—books that fit their learning styles best?
  • With how many subjects do they need minimal help? How well do they work alone? Which books will enable them to work and learn independently?
  • How much time do I have available if I want to use a more interactive curriculum?
  • Do I want curriculum that does all the work for me—lesson plans, tests, study sheets?
  • Should I sign them up for tutorials or co-op classes with other kids? Is it a good time to have them take dual-credit classes at the local community college?

Some books work well for all learning styles; others are more exclusive. Most moms do a fair bit of research before buying by reading reviews online and visiting book fairs. Just remember that even though you might want to “unschool” next year, your curriculum must, by law, include math, reading, spelling, grammar and a study in good citizenship.*

Another alternative is to search for a Christian school that has developed a home school program: You buy the books the school is using, and your children can join in whichever classes you would like.

2. Pick electives

  • What are their gifts and talents?
  • What do they love to spend most of their time doing?
  • Could I push them a little outside of their comfort zone?

According to public school development guidelines, students can earn six credits for electives on their high school transcripts.** Some examples are: foreign language, music, art, photography, computer programming, Web design, game design, driver education, speech, debate, or sports.

“I thought everyone else’s teens must have a deep interest in their educations. That’s what I read about in all the home schooling magazines . . . but it’s not true!” ~ S.

Larger families can find it helpful to only do one sport or hobby per year. One family did soccer for years, and then they all agreed to switch to ju-jitsu. It cut hours off the driving schedule and helped the family to stay close.

3. Discuss social activities

  • How much of a social life do I want my children to have/how much is okay?
  • Will all of their interactions with others be at the home school level—park days, co-ops, home school events?
  • Will all of their interactions with others be at the church level? Is the church youth group a good place for them to socialize?
  • Will they have enough friends from their sports or arts groups—soccer or choir?
  • Are we being overprotective?

“Pray. It’s not all about you. Be flexible.” ~ K.T.

Many parents allow their children one night a week (weekdays) for youth group, and the weekend is filled with their children’s social activities. Others prefer to fill the school week with home school busyness and keep the weekends for time with family. One mom cuts other home school moms’ hair most afternoons, and she invites the family to come so the kids can hang out.

As long as you are not letting fear control your decisions, you probably know each child well enough to understand what he needs in the form of friendships and can act accordingly.

4. Plan out the year

  • How much time do I have to spend with my children?
  • Do my children need a daily checklist? Do I need a daily checklist? What will I use to create that?
  • How often am I willing to drive them to extracurricular activities?
  • How many hours of study a day works for us as a family? How early do we start each day?
  • For how many weeks of the year will we do school?
  • Do I prefer to buy books that already have yearly lesson plans in place?
  • How can I make sure our plans do not exclude time for the younger members of the family?

“The longer I homeschooled, the less I planned.” ~ K.T.

Try to involve your teenagers in the planning process. While they may not be thrilled at the prospect of sitting down with you to discuss something they do not want to think about all summer, it helps for them to have some feeling of ownership in it. It can also be a good thing to have them commit to the finalized plans by signing them. Boys tend to be more difficult to engage when it comes to caring about their education, and perhaps nothing has worked to date. All you can do is your best, pray, and hope something sticks.

When it comes to home schooling, there really is no standard; it is all about what works for you and your family. When I started homeschooling, I was always sure to let people know that I was not a denim-jumper-wearing, chicken-rearing-in-the-backyard kind of home schooler because I was so much cooler than that. In reality, we are all cool, in our own eclectic way. God put us here to be ourselves, and if we cannot do that, we have failed God’s reason for making us.

“If all you do is try to be like someone else, you will only ever reach the No. 2 position.” ~ K.V.

Hopefully asking yourself all of these questions will help you figure out exactly what you plan on doing next year. If your mind is still addled, perhaps finishing this sentence will help: Ultimately, my children will leave home with me having done my best to turn them into ______________. Then let that goal guide your decisions.

*In the Leeper vs Arlington class-action suit, the case law which defines home schooling in Texas, the judge ruled that you must have and pursue in a bona fide (i.e., not a sham) manner a curriculum that includes math, reading, spelling, grammar, and a study in good citizenship.

**The TEA recommends that  Texas public school students take two semesters of P.E., two semesters of computer technology, and a semester of health education. Students can take a total of six credits of elective classes.

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Sally Hanan – has written 3 posts on this site.
Sally Hanan is a native Irishwoman who left her homeland to settle in Texas thirteen years ago. Her two children have always been homeschooled, and she homeschools a neighbor’s two children also. Sally writes for various magazines and books, is a lay counselor/singer/youth event coordinator at her church, and owns a small business that manufactures educational phonic helps: www.eagermind.com.

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